By Diego Hernandez / April 13th, 2020
|Release Date||February 14th, 2020|
|Genre||Visual Novel, Romance, Comedy, Drama|
It’s finally time to talk about Senren*Banka, a visual novel that won the hearts of many when it came out one faithful summer in 2016. This story commemorates 10 years of Yuzusoft and got recognized extensively. To clarify, we’re talking awards for art, music, and even characters. This includes a runner-up GOTY finish in the 2016 Moe Game Awards and a win at Getchu’s 2016 Bishoujo Game Awards. Yuzusoft is a household name in Japan and the rest of the world is slowly taking notes. All thanks to NekoNyan’s efforts in bringing the catalog over, which is no easy feat. Which is only fitting that we get one of the more memorable releases to date, on a very romantic Valentine’s Day. The stage is set, and only one question remains. How does all of it hold up?
With the spotlight on, it’s time to take you through the beginning of this tale. The name of your protagonist is Masaomi Arichi, and it seems he’s been banished to the countryside for slacking off too hard. In order to grow as a responsible human being, he’s sent to work at his grandfather’s inn. Thank you, mother. However, upon arrival, you notice things are a bit off. In particular, the perception of the town for non-locals or some peculiar hallucinations. Perhaps Masaomi simply has symptoms of exhaustion. In any case, a reunion with childhood friends warms the heart and laughs are plentiful. That is until it’s time to whimsically participate in local festivities. The attempt to draw the legendary Murasamemaru goes completely awry. To clarify, his attempt breaks the legendary blade. This completely unexpected turn of events sets the wheel of fate in motion. Welcome to Senren*Banka.
After you had your fair share of laughs at the expense of Masaomi’s struggles, the story will slowly introduce the core members of your cast in a colorful manner. To clarify, it’s done in such a way that allows the reader to quickly gauge what kind of personalities we’re dealing with. However, they only give you so much. If you want to know more, you must take a deeper dive in their route. This is important. While it’s good to fall in love at first sight, you don’t want to fall under the trap of repetition once you’re on the route. Senren*Banka keeps enough information about all the characters hidden to make their routes extremely interesting. However, I’m getting ahead of myself and we need to talk about the common route. The sword’s chosen you as its master and you are now to protect Hoori from the cursed spirits.
If this were any other visual novel, they’d use this opportunity to market the characters while putting the story on the sideline until you picked your lover. Thankfully, we’re not dealing with just any visual novel. The common route is practically its own game. An investigation into the origin of the cursed spirits, and how it has plagued, not just the town, but an entire family line for centuries. This story goes deeper than anything imaginable. All the while, you get to see characters at their highest and their lowest while making minor decisions along the way that carve your path. It’s straightforward, simplistic, and it works so well that it leaves me baffled. However, the simplicity of these minor choices does affect your route landing spot, and they’re not entirely obvious. Some readers will have a little bit of trouble figuring out the pattern to get a certain girl.
Normally, I’d say let your honest answers show you the way. But in the case of Senren*Banka you do want to exercise some level of caution. There are two routes that are recommended to save for last as they bring the entirety of the lore full circle. Not only satisfying your heart but also the mind. We’ll go over this more once I introduce you to the major characters. While the routes do enable some tomfoolery with your favorite girl, you’re also completing the story. This goes back to what I said about one aspect sidelining the other. Yuzusoft has the two walking hand-in-hand in perfect harmony. Engage in all the coitus you want, but there’s still a main story to be completed. Furthermore, every character has a different approach to how it all ends. A full read of all routes is my genuine recommendation.
If you’re going to play all the routes in Senren*Banka, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with all your options. Let’s start with the first girl to capture our main character’s eyes: Yoshino Tomotake. The Shrine Princess of Hoori who seems to have closed her heart off to the masses in order to focus on one thing: saving Hoori from evil. Yes, her family has led the fight against the cursed spirits ever since their first appearance nearly 400 years ago. She took her mantle of Shrine Princess at a young age and has worked tirelessly to repel evil and keep the town safe. An incredibly earnest and admirable girl. To clarify, she’ll be your valuable ally in this fight. Oh, there’s also something about an engagement between the shrine priestess and whoever wields Murasamemaru? Eh, you’ll learn about that later.
Because of Yoshino’s devotion to the fight against cursed spirits, she’s never been able to enjoy the intricacies of life. You need to step up, and win this fight, so that she may show that brilliant smile more often. Introduce her to a world that’s full of pleasantries and you’ll get some of the most wonderful reactions ever to grace the medium. But be warned, there is a very good reason she won’t stop fighting. It’s going to take an emotional toll on you, but the reward might outweigh the risk.
Next on our list of beautiful ladies is Mako Hitachi, the ninja of Hoori. The Hitachi family has been tasked to safeguard the Tomotake family since the dawn of the cursed spirits. Mako is the latest in such a line. While the time of shogunate and war is long past, Mako settles down and handles all the chores for the family during the day. However, at night, she still protects Yoshino from the cursed spirits. The only thing she takes more seriously than her line of work is her playfulness. Masaomi will become the victim of many pranks and teasing. Be on your guard.
Like Yoshino, Mako hasn’t had the time to enjoy the luxuries of life. However, unlike Yoshino, Mako is curious about life after the fight. To clarify, she’s reading a fair share of shoujo manga. Love is an interesting concept to Mako and learning about it is going to be a key part of matching you two together. However, it won’t be easy. Mako gets flustered easily at the sign of being counter-teased. You’ll have to play your cards correctly if you want any chance of getting closer to this agile ninja. You might also want to be careful around her. You don’t want a kunai in your face, after all.
Masaomi’s unfortunate accident with Murasamemaru did not only bring him closer to these two families, but with the caretaker of the blade herself. Now it’s time to introduce Murasame. Visible only to those chosen by the hands of fate to fight for Hoori, Murasame has been a key figure in this fight in its entirety. When she fell gravely ill all those years ago, she elected to become the sacrificial pawn that led to the enshrining of the blade. While no master has shown up until now, she’s served alongside both families in keeping the evildoers at bay. With a master now unexpectedly found, she believes Masaomi will be the one to swing the tide in their favor.
Murasame has been around for 500 years yet she still appears and acts somewhat like a child. She’s even afraid of ghosts! Wait, isn’t she technically one? In any case, the world is different now from 500 years ago. Look forward to guiding her about all the nuances while also figuring out her own mysteries. However, these mysteries get more complicated the more you learn. But if you’re brave enough to consider dating a ghost than this should be trivial. Murasame is easily my choice for the cutest among the options present in the title for her range in personality that comes with the years she’s been around. An odd mix of maturity and childlike behavior goes a long way towards warming your heart. She’s incredibly understanding, and it will impress a lot of readers during the more difficult to swallow portions of the story.
Finally, to round out the characters is the most mysterious addition to the cast yet. Let me introduce you to Lena Liechtenauer. She comes to Hoori to learn more about the culture she fell in love with from the stories of her family. Unlike all previous options until now, Lena doesn’t have a direct connection to anybody involved with the curse, much like Masaomi. However, at least Masaomi drew the blade from the shrine, Lena has done nothing, yet she’s able to see Murasame? It’s mind-boggling! The more you think about it, the more complex it gets. She comes from all the way in Europe and the only possible connection is that a great-grandfather once visited Hoori. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s always the mysterious ones that you should be most vigilant of.
She’s a very lively and kindhearted addition to the cast who will brighten the mood in any situation. While her role might not be completely understood at this time, something tells me she might be a key part in figuring it all out. I should note that her voice acting really brings out the comedy in some of the more outrageous scenes and it’s a true delight to watch her get flustered. Which, fortunately, happens often as she’s not used to thinking about boys and girls being romantic. Be patient with her, and the rewards will be as bountiful as the size of her chest.
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